I was so surprised by the number of people that were asking for an update (I mentioned this last night on the Facebook page)! I had actually started the post the day of, we were ready to go and just waiting for the scalder to come up to temp, but then we got into the process and by the time we were finished (6pm) it was the last thing on my mind.
It was a process just getting ready to process! Friday night we separated the roosters we planed to dispatch from the general population, and also brought the biggies around to join the littles. That is all better to do at night since everyone is so much more calm- less chance of being pecked! We’ve talked about this before in an earlier post entitled “Night Moves”. We placed the condemned in cat and dog crates (we had to keep Ahmen away from the other roosters because he had just become so mean, he was attacking everyone) so they wouldn’t be eating or drinking through the night or early morning. It’s best if you butcher them with an empty crop, much less mess and clean up involved. The separation created some consternation among those remaining on the other side of the coop – Immen (the little black hen) is still looking for Ahmen, they were pretty tight – so I placed the beach towels over the top of the crate to keep the roosters calm and to help keep the others from panicking.
Saturday morning we started setting up early. Sue had to go into Hereford to pick up a few more supplies like, ice and gloves, so I started setting out the items we had already gathered. Then we placed the different stations that we’d be using that day. First was the “dispatch station” – and I thank Leslie V. for giving me that term, so much more pleasant to say. We wanted to keep it mostly out of view from unsuspecting drivers or neighbors; didn’t want to ruin their day or give them cause to think we were performing some arcane ritual. So, it is set up on a mostly protected side of the feed shed, but in full view of the chicken run… so maybe we won’t keep it there.
The next station is the scalding/cooling/plucking area. The scalder needs to be at least 145° up to 150°. As we discovered, this takes about 2 1/2 hours to get up to temp. It helps if you can keep it covered between chickens; it stays at temp pretty well that way. The way it works is you dunk the bird into the scalder for 10-15 seconds, until the tail feathers can be easily plucked. Then – to stop the scalding process, and so you don’t cook the dang thing- you dunk it in a tub of ice water to immediately cool it down. Then it is placed into the plucker (we talked about this contraption in an earlier post entitled “Finger-Lickin-Chicken-Plucker”). The photo at the left shows what that part of the set-up looked like.
The plucker its self has little rubber protrusions, that look like fingers, on the inside of the drum. The drum spins around, moving the chicken against the fingers which pull out the feathers. As long as the legs don’t get stuck, this seems to work rather well.
The final station is where most of
the “processing” takes place. This is where you create the chicken that you’re used to seeing when we purchase one in the store. I’m not going to detail what goes on here. You can look that up on-line at some other intrepid homesteader’s site. Sue was the one that performed the “dispatching” and “processing” functions.
I helped where I could, held the birds during different parts of the process, was the fetch and carry person, and then took care of the final cleaning and wrapping of the processed chicken. By far – I had the best of the tasks. We were both rather dreading the day, but I think at the end of it all, we were pleased with the outcome; that we completed the entire process with all six roosters, and had an ok product at the end. These birds were not bred to be broilers or fryers, they were past the prime age for that, they’ll be what we like to call “tough ol’ birds”. So, they are for stewing, or pressure cooking. For our purpose, they’ll be fine.
It was a very long day, by the time we were all cleaned up and the birds were in the fridge, it was around 6pm. I’m not gonna lie… it was difficult, I cried when we took care of Ahmen, because he had been a pet that came over from California with me, and he was a beautiful bird – just mean as all get out and dangerous to have around (we could have shown you some gnarly bruises he gave us). Sue was great, she stood strong throughout and gave a prayer of thanksgiving for Ahmen; I think we both prayed through the entire process and I believe that it helped us to make it through the day. We do truly care about these animals and we want to respect their lives and give thanks for the sustenance they provide.
For dinner that night, we both wanted a huge hamburger (no chicken!) and treated ourselves to Chili’s! Here is the final outcome: six neatly packaged and labeled chickens. They weighed between 3.47 – 3.95 lbs., which is a great weight for two people to have for a filling meal of Coq au Vin! I think I’ll make that for the potluck at work this Thursday. I’ll have to judge the crowd to see if I want to say where the meat came from!
I promised no gory details and hope that I have delivered. I think the next post should be something a bit more peaceful, maybe something about bees!
Until then, as always,
Thanks for reading!
Today’s Weather: It has been absolutely lovely that past few days. On my way home, the car thermometer said it was 68°! The phone says the high was 67° and the low is expected to be 41°. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 72°! I think Spring may have sprung here in Hereford.
Egg Report: The report is mixed. Two days in a row – before we moved the Biggies in with the Littles, we had four eggs – each day! That meant that all our mature hens were laying. Then, things took a nose dive after processing day. We had one, then two, then three – with someone laying and egg outside on top of the compost heap… that may have been one of the littles! Today we had two. I’m hoping that, as the weather warms and the chicken coop dynamics are all figured out, we’ll end up with consistent numbers. We’ll also have the littles slowly adding to the count as well.